- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 18, 2012


Dub this the Year of the Marion Barry Watch.

D.C. voters are gearing up to hit the polls on several occasions this year, the first being the presidential primary in April.

But before that, they will become more familiar with Democrats trying to grab two seats on the D.C. Council.

One of those races will determine whether the inimitable Mr. Barry survives to be sworn in for the umpteenth time, while the other will determine who gets to warm the Ward 5 seat vacated by the disgraced Harry Thomas Jr.

The most interesting of the races is the one being waged in Ward 8 against Mr. Barry, who rode into Washington in the 1960s as a firebrand and rarely has run a haggard campaign because his charisma usually wins the day.

This election could be different, as Mr. Barry is clearly “in survival mode,” a longtime supporter said Wednesday.

Unlike all of the other elections since he won his first in 1971, Mr. Barry isn’t battling the white man, Jim Crow, voter apathy or even a Republican.

No, this time, Mr. Barry, 75, is in a war with an incumbent: himself.

See, Mr. Barry has been on the wrong side of several political and class skirmishes recently.

The one that stands out is a NIMBY issue.

Mr. Barry supported a 50-bed homeless shelter for women on prime Southeast real estate, while very vocal middle-class and working-class residents opposed the site but embraced the cause.

And who could reasonably argue against either of the voters’ stances? After all, there were at least a half-dozen other sites the city could have chosen in Southeast.

What’s astonishing here is that the fight in and of itself illustrates that the great Marion Barry — who would stand naked as a jaybird to battle on behalf of the least, the last and the lost — has now positioned himself in the midst of a class war.

To be sure, black folks stand on both sides. Thing is, they are the same blacks who, every time Mr. Barry asked, gave him another four years to deliver them from overwhelming violence, poor schools and poor schooling, economic underdevelopment and downright abandonment as it relates to the distribution not of wealth.

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